Windows Media Player.indd

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Windows Media Player.indd
bonus
appendix
Windows Media Player
I
n the beginning, Windows Media Player was the headquarters for music and video
on your PC. It was the Grand Central Terminal for things like music CDs (you
could play ’em, copy songs off ’em, and burn ’em); MP3 files and other digital
songs (you could sort ’em, buy ’em online, and file ’em into playlists); pocket music
players of the non-iPod variety (fill ’em up, manage their playlists); Internet radio
stations; DVD movies (watch ’em); and so on.
Media Player still does all that, and more. But it’s no longer clear that this is the program you’ll use for these activities. Gradually, the Media Player audience is splintering.
POWER USERS’ CLINIC
Missing In Action: Music Store and DVD Playback
In Windows 7, Media Player offered two handy features that
are now gone. First, it offered a window into online music
stores, where you could stream or buy songs. That’s over
now; Microsoft figures that the Groove Music app offers more
than enough streaming and buying options.
The other missing feature takes more effort to replace:
Windows Media Player can no longer play DVDs. You can
no longer insert a Hollywood movie and play it on your
PC—at least not without downloading some add-on software.
And Microsoft doesn’t offer the Windows Media Center
add-on anymore, either.
Solution: Download a free DVD-playback program like VLC.
It’s a super-feature-packed program for playing DVDs and
Internet videos, it doesn’t cost $10, and it works with any
flavor of Windows 10. You can download it from this book’s
“Missing CD” page at www.missingmanuals.com.
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613
The Lay of the Land
Nowadays, a certain percentage of people are using alternative programs like Apple’s
iTunes software or other non-Microsoft candidates.
Still, most of the Windows world continues to use Windows Media Player as their
music-file database. The current version has some excellent features, including a
cleaner design, free streaming through your house—or even over the Internet—to
other computers, and playback of more kinds of audio and video files (the new types
include H.264, AAC, Xvid, and DivX). It’s worth getting to know.
Note: In its insatiable quest to dominate the world of digital music and video, Microsoft keeps updating
Windows Media Player, usually redesigning it beyond recognition with each update. For example, this chapter
describes Media Player version 12, included with Windows 10 out of the gate. But sure as shootin’, version
13 will be coming your way within a year or so. (Windows’ automatic-update feature will let you know when
version 13 is fully baked and ready to download.)
The Lay of the Land
The first time you open Windows Media Player, you confront the usual Microsoft
interrogation about your privacy tolerance. If it’s pretty much OK with you for Microsoft to do what it wants with (anonymous) details of your Media Player habits,
click Recommended and get on with your life.
Figure 1:
When you click
a label at left,
the main portion of the window changes to
show you your
music collection, using the
actual albumcover artwork
as icons. It’s
very visual, but
not especially
efficient with
screen space.
Fortunately,
you also have a
more compact
List view available—choose
Details from the
View Options
pop-up menu
(d) next to the
search box.
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In any case, eventually, you wind up at the main Media Player screen (Figure 1).
The Lay of the Land
Down the left side of the window is a navigation tree—a list of the music, videos,
pictures, recorded TV shows, and playlists in your collection. The flippy triangles next
to the major headings make it easy to collapse sections of the list. Under the Library
headings, you can click Artist, Album, Genre, or whatever, to see your entire music
library sorted by that criterion (Figure 1).
Media Player’s top edge, as you may have noticed, offers three horizontal strips:
•• The menu bar. As in so many Windows programs, this one has a very useful menu
bar, but Microsoft has hidden it in hopes of making Media Player seem less complicated. Fine, but you need the menu bar. Make it appear by pressing Alt+M. The
rest of this chapter assumes that you’ve done so, as shown in Figure 1.
•• Address bar. This “bread crumbs trail” of Media Player places shows what you’ve
clicked to get where you are: for example, Library˘Music˘Genre˘Classical. You
can click any of these words to backtrack.
•• Toolbar. Here are the one- or two-word commands you’ll use most often.
The largest portion of the window is filled by the Details pane—basically, your list
of music, videos, or photos. The wider you make the window, the more information
you can see here.
Tip: The pop-up menu next to the search box lets you change how the album covers, videos, and photos
are displayed: in a list, as icons only, or as icons with details.
When you’re in any kind of List view, don’t forget that you can right-click the column headings to get the
“Choose columns” command. It lets you change what kinds of detail columns appear here. You can get rid of
Length and Rating, if you like, and replace those columns with Mood and Conductor. (If you’re weird, that is.)
At the right side, you may see the Play, Burn, and Sync tabs; more on these in a moment. Down at the bottom, there’s a standard set of playback controls.
UP TO SPEED
Custom Express
The first time you open Media Player, a welcome message
appears. It offers you two choices:
Express Settings. This option is “Recommended” because
it makes Media Player the main music and video player for
your PC, sends Microsoft anonymous details about what you
buy and listen to, and downloads track lists and other details
from the Internet when you insert a CD or DVD.
do quite such a big land grab of your multimedia playback
rights, then choose this option. You’re walked through three
settings screens where you can tone down Media Player’s
ambitions: Turn off its transmission or recording of your
activities, opt out of the link to the Media Guide online music
store, or specify which file types Media Player considers
itself the “owner” of (that will open in Media Player when
double-clicked).
Custom Settings. If you’d rather be a little less free with
your private information, or If you’d like Media Player not to
bonus appendix: windows media player
615
Importing Music
Files
Importing Music Files
When you first open Media Player, it automatically searches the usual folders on your
hard drive—Music, Pictures, Videos, Recorded TV—for files that it can play. It leaves
the files where they are, but in the navigation pane, it lists everything it finds.
Actually, it’s monitoring those folders. If any new music files (or video or pictures)
arrive in those folders, they’re automatically listed in Media Player.
But what if there’s some music in a different folder? Fortunately, you can add that new
folder to Media Player’s awareness.
Choose OrganizeÆ“Manage libraries”ÆMusic. Proceed as shown in Figure 2.
Note: Any song, video, or photo that you ever play in Media Player gets automatically added to its Library—if
it’s on your hard drive or the Internet. If it’s on another PC on the network, or on a removable disk like a
CD, Media Player doesn’t bother adding it, because it probably won’t be there the next time you want it.
Figure 2:
Here’s Monitored Folder
Central. It lists the folders that Media Player
monitors for the arrival
of new music files. Click
Add to add a new folder;
click a folder and click
Remove to stop monitoring it. Click OK.
You can also drag sound or video files directly from your desktop or folder windows
into the Media Player window.
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Music Playback
Music Playback
You can sort your collection by performer, album, year released, or whatever, just by
clicking the corresponding icons in the navigation tree. Whenever you want to play
back some music, just click your way to the song or album you want—there’s no need
to hunt around in your shoeboxes for the original CD the songs came from.
But that’s just the beginning of Media Player’s organizational tools; see Figure 3.
Figure 3:
On the Library
tab, the navigation tree (left)
lists your play­
lists. Under the
Music heading,
you see various
ways to sort
your collection.
The button just
to the left of
the search box
changes the layout in the central
window: List
view, Icon view,
and so on. Don’t
miss the search
box at the top,
which searches
all text related
to your songs
and videos as
you type, hiding
entries that don’t
match.
You can pick something to listen to in a couple of different ways:
•• Under Music in the navigation pane, click Artist, Album, or Genre. Double-click
an album cover to see what songs are on that album. Double-click a song to start
playing it.
•• Use the Search command to find a song, composer, album, or band.
When you’ve found something worth listening to, double-click to start playback. You
can use the space bar to start and stop playback.
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617
Music Playback
Tip: If you point to a song without clicking, a little Preview bubble pops up. Click the 2 button to hear a
15-second snippet of it; click the 5 button to skip ahead.
How is this feature any better than just clicking the song and hitting the space bar? Microsoft only knows.
Fun with Media Player
When your everyday work leaves you uninspired, here are a few of the experiments
you can conduct on the Media Player screen design:
•• Shrink the window to Now Playing size. If the Media Player window is taking up
too much screen space, making it harder for you to work on that crucial business
plan as you listen to Adele, no problem: You can shrink it down to a three-inch
square, a little panel called the Now Playing window (Figure 4). You can park this
window off to the side of your screen as you do other work. It shows the current
album cover, and when you point at it, playback controls appear.
To fire up the Now Playing screen, press Ctrl+3, or choose ViewÆNow Playing,
or click the « icon in the lower-right corner of the window.
Press Ctrl+1 to return the Media Player window to its full-sized glory.
UP TO SPEED
Redesigning the Navigation Pane
The navigation pane starts out
looking a little baffling. Under the
Music heading, it looks like you
can sort by only Artist, Album, or
Genre—why not rating or composer?
And what’s the deal with the
Pictures category? You’ve already
got two photo-playback programs
(Photos in TileWorld and Photo
Gallery)—why would you use
Media Player to play photos?
And why is there a Recorded
TV folder here, even on the vast
majority of PCs that cannot, in fact,
record TV?
Fortunately, it’s easy enough to
hide the items you’ll never use and
add the ones you will.
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The key is to choose OrganizeÆ
“Customize navigation pane.” For
Music, you’re offered a long list of
additional music-sorting categories, like Year, Rating, Composer,
Folder, and so on. Turn on the
checkboxes you want.
Meanwhile, the other nav-pane
headings have checkboxes here,
too. Go ahead and turn off Recorded TV (you may have to click
the checkbox twice to make it
empty) or Pictures, if you like. If
you don’t plan to buy any music
online, then turn off Show Music
Services below the list, too.
Finally, click OK. You’ve finally
made Media Player your player.
Tip: Of course, you can also just minimize Media Player, as you would any window. In fact, when you do
that, Media Player’s icon on the taskbar sprouts a jump list. In other words, you can right-click it to see a
pop-up menu of handy commands, like “Resume previous list” and “Play all music.” It also lists your most
frequently played tunes.
Music Playback
•• Switch visualizations. A visualization is a sort of laser light show, a screen saver that
pulses in time to the music. It’s available only in the Now Playing mode described
above (Figure 4, right).
Figure 4:
Left: When the Now
Playing window is on
your screen, you get to
see the album art and,
when the mouse is in the
window, a very tiny set of
playback controls.
Right: Visualizations R Us.
To see it, right-click the Now Playing window. From the shortcut menu, choose
Visualizations; from the submenu (and sub-submenus), choose a visualization
style. Ctrl-click the window (to see the next style) or Shift+Ctrl-click (for the
previous one).
And if you tire of the displays built into Windows, download more of them by
choosing VisualizationsÆ“Download visualizations” from the same shortcut menu.
•• Expand the window. On the other hand, if your PC is briefly serving as a glorified
stereo system at a cocktail party, double-click the visualization display itself (or
press Alt+Enter). The screen-saver effect now fills the entire screen, hiding all text,
buttons, and controls. If you have an available laptop and a coffee table to put it on,
you’ve got yourself a great atmospheric effect. (When the party’s over, just doubleclick again, or press Alt+Enter again, to make the standard controls reappear.)
•• Fool around with the sound. Don’t miss the graphic equalizer, a little row of sliders
that lets you adjust the bass, treble, and other frequencies to suit your particular
speakers and your particular ears. In the Now Playing window, right-click an
empty spot. From the shortcut menu, choose EnhancementsÆGraphic Equalizer.
The same submenu offers a number of other audio effects, including Quiet Mode
(smooths out the highs and the lows so that sudden blasts don’t wake up the kids)
bonus appendix: windows media player
619
Music Playback
and something called SRS WOW, which simulates a 3-D sound experience through
nothing more than stereo speakers or headphones.
•• Fool around with the speed. If you’re in a hurry to get through an album, or just
think the tempo’s too slow, right-click an empty spot in the Now Playing window.
From the shortcut menu, choose EnhancementsÆ“Play speed settings.” You’re offered a new window containing a playback-speed slider for your music—a weird
and wonderful feature.
•• Change the skin. In hopes of riding the world’s craze for MP3 files, Microsoft has
helped itself to one of the old Winamp program’s most interesting features: skins.
A skin is a design scheme that completely changes the look of Windows Media
Player, as shown in Figure 5.
To choose a new skin, choose ViewÆSkin Chooser. Then click each of the available
skins, listed down the left side, to see a preview of its appearance. When you click
the Apply Skin button (at the top-left corner of the window), your player takes on
the look of the skin you chose and shrinks down into the compact Skin mode, as
described in the previous tip.
Playing Music CDs
For its next trick, Media Player can simulate a $25 CD player. To fire it up, just insert
an audio CD into your computer’s CD or DVD drive.
If you insert a CD when you’re at the desktop, and it’s the first time you’ve ever taken
this dramatic action, you get the AutoPlay interview shown in Figure 6. It asks how
you want Windows to handle inserted CDs. Do you want it to play them? Or rip them
(start copying their songs to your hard drive)? And if you said “play,” do you want to
use Media Player or Media Center, if you have it?
For now, click “Play audio CD using Windows Media Player.”
Figure 5:
To change the
skin, choose
ViewÆSkin
Chooser from the
menu. A directory
of skins appears;
it’s empty at the
outset. Click More
Skins; Windows
sends you online
to Microsoft’s
grisly-sounding
Skin Gallery.
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If you’re in Media Player, on the other hand, the CD’s contents show up right away.
Music Playback
Either way, you can start playing the CD just as though the files were on your PC, using the playback controls at the bottom of the window. All of the usual tricks—Now
Playing, visualizations, and so on—are available for the CD playback.
Figure 6:
Top: Windows may ask what you want it to do with a
music CD. Tap or click this message to open the one shown
here at bottom.
Bottom: If you accept the “Play audio CD” option by clicking OK or pressing Enter, Media Player opens automatically and begins to play the songs on your CD.
Ripping CDs to Your Hard Drive
You can copy an album, or selected tracks, to your hard drive in the form of standalone
music files that play when double-clicked. The process is called ripping, much to the
consternation of sleepless record executives who think that’s short for ripping off.
Having CD songs on your hard drive is handy, though:
•• You can listen to your songs without having to hunt for the CDs they came from.
•• You can listen to music even if you’re using the CD-ROM drive for something else
(like a CD-based game).
•• You can build your own playlists (sets of favorite songs) consisting of tracks from
different albums.
•• You can compress the file in the process, so that each song takes up much less
disk space.
•• You can transfer the songs to a portable player or burn them onto a homemade CD.
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Music Playback
If you’re sold on the idea, open the “Rip settings” pop-up menu on your toolbar.
Inspect your settings. For example:
•• Format. Microsoft has designed Windows Media Player to generate files in the
company’s own format, called Windows Media Audio (.wma) format. But many
people prefer, and even require, MP3 files. For example, certain CD players and
portable music players (including the iPod) can play back MP3 files—but won’t
know what to do with WMA files.
If you’d prefer the more universally compatible MP3 files, choose “Rip
settings”ÆFormatÆMP3 (Figure 7).
•• Audio quality. The “Audio quality” submenu controls the tradeoff, in the resulting
sound files, between audio quality and file size. At 128 kbps, for example, a 3-minute
MP3 file might consume about 2.8 megabytes. At 192 kbps, the same file sounds
better, but it eats up about 4.2 MB. And at a full 320 kbps, the file’s roughly 7 MB.
GEM IN THE ROUGH
Filling in Track Names
Weird though it may seem, precious few audio CDs come
programmed to know their own names (and song titles).
(Remember, CDs were invented before the MP3/iTunes
era; nobody expected them to be played on computers.)
Every day, millions of people insert music CDs into their
computers and see the songs listed as nothing more than
“Track 1,” “Track 2,” and so on—and the album itself goes
by the catchy name “Unknown Album.”
Fix #1. If your PC is online when you insert a certain music
CD, you’ll bypass that entire situation. Windows takes a quick
glance at your CD, sends a query to www.allmusic.com (a
massive database on the Web containing information on
over 15 million songs), and downloads the track list and a
picture of the album cover for your particular disc.
Fix #2. If allmusic.com draws a blank, as it often does for
classical recordings, no big deal. Media Player makes it easy
to search the Web for this information at a later time. In the
main Media Player window (Ctrl+1), click Album in the nav
pane. Right-click an album cover, and then, from the shortcut
menu, choose “Find album info.” (Alternatively, you can
highlight the names of the tracks with missing information;
right-click one and then choose “Find album info.”)
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windows 10: the missing manual
Fix #3. You can type in the names of your songs manually.
Begin on the Library tab. Select the tracks you want to edit.
(By Shift-clicking or Ctrl-clicking, you can add information to
multiple tracks simultaneously—for example, if they all came
from the same album.)
Now click carefully in the specific column you want to edit—
Artist, Album, or whatever. A little text box opens so that you
can type in the track information manually.
Fix #4. This is pretty cool: In the navigation tree, click the
criterion that’s missing, like Artist or Album. Now you can
drag an incorrectly labeled track or album onto one with
the correct labeling—and marvel as Media Player copies the
correct info onto the dragged item.
(If an album is missing its cover art, you can paste in a graphic
you’ve copied from, for example, the Web. Just right-click
it and, from the shortcut menu, choose “Paste album art.”)
No matter how the track names and album art get onto your
PC, Windows saves this information in your music library.
Therefore, the next time you insert this CD, the Media Player
will recognize it and display the track names and album
information automatically.
These are important considerations if you’re ripping for an MP3 player. For instance, a 20-gigabyte music player can hold 142 hours of music you’ve ripped at
320 kbps, or 357 hours at 128 kbps.
Music Playback
Figure 7:
How much compression do you want? If
you don’t need MP3
compatibility, Windows Media Audio
(Variable Bit Rate)
maximizes quality
and minimizes size
by continuously
adjusting the data
rate along the song’s
length.
For MP3 files, most people find the 192 kbps setting to produce great-sounding,
relatively compact files. For WMA, 128 kbps might be a good starting point.
Needless to say, let your ears (and the capacity of your portable music player) be
your guide.
•• Storage location. Windows likes to copy your song files into your PersonalÆ​
Music folder. If you’d prefer it to stash them somewhere else, choose “Rip
settings”Æ“More options.”
Tip: If you have a stack of CDs to rip, don’t miss the two commands in the “Rip settings” menu: “Rip CD
Automatically” and “Eject CD after ripping.” Together, they turn your PC into an automated ripping machine,
leaving nothing for you to do but feed it CDs and watch TV.
Here’s how you rip:
1.Insert the music CD.
The list of songs on the CD appears.
2.Turn on the checkboxes of the tracks you want to copy.
You’ve waited all your life for this: At last, you have the power to eliminate any
annoying songs and keep only the good ones.
3.On the toolbar, click Rip CD.
Windows begins to copy the songs onto your hard drive. The Rip CD button
changes to “Stop rip,” which you can click to interrupt the process.
When it’s all over, the CD’s songs are now part of your library, nestled among whatever
other files you had there.
bonus appendix: windows media player
623
Playlists
Playlists
Microsoft recognizes that you may not want to listen to all your songs every time
you need some tunes. That’s why Media Player lets you create playlists—folders in
the navigation list that contain only certain songs. In effect, you can devise your own
albums, mixing and matching songs from different albums for different purposes:
one called “Downer Tunes,” another called “Makeout Music,” and so on.
To create a new playlist, make sure the Play tab is selected (right side). That pane starts
out empty. (If it’s not, click “Clear list” at the top.) It says, “Drag items here to create
a playlist.” Well, hey—it’s worth a try. See Figure 8.
Tip: You can also right-click any album or song and, from the shortcut menu, choose “Add to”; the submenu
lists all your existing playlists.
Figure 8:
To create a
playlist, just
start dragging
tracks or whole
albums to the
Playlist pane.
Switch views,
or use the
search box, as
necessary to
find the tracks
you want. Drag
songs up and
down in the
Playlist pane to
reorder them.
Click where it
now says “Untitled Playlist” to
give your play­
list a name. Use
the upper-right
pop-up menu to
scramble or sort
the playlist.
Once you’ve created a playlist, click “Save list” at the top of the pane. Thrill to the
appearance of a new icon in the Playlists category of the navigation tree.
Note: To create another playlist right away, close the first one by clicking the red
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windows 10: the missing manual
x beside its name.
Whenever you want to delete a selected song, playlist, or almost anything else, press
the Delete key. Media Player generally asks if you want it deleted only from the library,
or if you really want it gone from your computer.
Playlists
Burning Your Own CDs
The beauty of a CD burner is that it frees you from the stifling restrictions put on
your musical tastes by the record companies. You can create your own “best of ” CDs
that play in any CD player—and that contain only your favorite songs in your favorite
order. The procedure goes like this:
1.Click the Burn tab. Insert a blank CD.
If you’ve inserted a rewriteable disc like a CD-RW, and you’ve burned it before,
right-click its icon in the navigation tree. Then, from the shortcut menu, choose
“Erase disc” before you proceed.
GEM IN THE ROUGH
Auto Playlists
Auto playlists constantly rebuild themselves according to
criteria you specify. You
might tell one playlist to
assemble 45 minutes’
worth of songs you’ve
rated higher than four
stars but rarely listen to,
and another to list your
most-often-played songs
from the ’80s.
To make an auto playlist, choose “Create
playlist”Æ”Create auto
playlist” (on the toolbar).
The dialog box shown
here appears. The controls are designed to set
up a search of your music
database. Click “Click here to add criteria,” click the first
criterion (like Artist), and then click each underlined phrase
(“is”/“is not”) to build a sentence. For example, “Artist” “Is”
“Beatles.”
The last set of controls
in this dialog box let you
limit the playlist’s total
size, playback time, or
song quantity.
When you click OK, your
auto playlist is ready to
show off; it appears in
the navigation tree like
any other playlist. The
difference, of course, is
that it updates itself as you
work with your music collection. This playlist gets
updated as your collection
changes, as you change
your ratings, as your play count changes, and so on.
(To edit an auto playlist, right-click it; from the shortcut
menu, choose Edit.)
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625
Burning Your
Own CDs
2. Specify which songs you want to burn by dragging them into the Burn List (where
it says “Drag items here”).
You can add music to your CD-to-be in just about any kind of chunk: individual
songs, whole albums, playlists, random audio files on your hard drive, and so on.
You drag them into the Burn list, just as you’d drag them into a playlist like the
one shown in Figure 8.
To add a whole playlist to the Burn List, drag its name right across the screen from
the navigation tree. To add a file that’s not already in Media Player, drag it out of
its Explorer window directly into the Burn List. Drag tracks up or down in the
Burn list to change their sequence.
As you go, keep an eye on the time tally above your list of tracks. It lets you know
how much you’ve put on your CD, measured in minutes:seconds. If you go over
the limit (about an hour), Media Player will have to burn additional CDs. (“Next
disc” markers will let you know where the breaks will come.)
Tip: Media Player adds 2 seconds of silence between each song, which might explain why you may not
be able to fit that one last song onto the disc even though it seems like it should fit. It also applies volume
leveling, which is great when you’re mixing songs from various albums that would otherwise be at different
volume levels. (You control both the gaps and the volume leveling by opening the Burn menu and choosing
“More burn options.”)
3.Click “Start burn” above the list of songs.
It takes awhile to burn a CD. To wind up with the fewest “coasters” (mis-burned
CDs that you have to throw away), allow your PC’s full attention to focus on the
task. Don’t play music, for example.
POWER USERS’ CLINIC
CD and DVD Format Fun
Most of the time, you’ll probably want to burn a regular audio
CD, of the type that plays in the world’s 687 quintillion CD
players. But you can also use the Burn tab to make a data
CD or DVD—a disc designed to play in computers. That’s a
good way, for example, to make a backup of your tunes.
Actually, most recent CD players can also play MP3 CDs,
which are basically data CDs filled with MP3 files. That’s a
great feature, because a single MP3 CD can hold 100 songs
or more. (A few can even play WMA CDs, meaning CDs
containing files in Microsoft’s own audio format.)
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windows 10: the missing manual
You specify what kind of disc you intend to burn by choosing
its name from the “Burn options” B menu (upper-right).
If you’re ever in doubt about how you burned a certain CD
(audio or data?), here’s a trick: Insert it into your PC, open
its window, and examine its contents. If you see files with
the suffix .cda, you’ve got yourself an audio CD; if it’s full of
other kinds of files, like .mp3, .wma, or even .jpg and .doc,
it’s a data CD.
Copying to a Portable Player or Windows Phone
If you have a pocket gizmo that’s capable of playing music (like a SanDisk Sansa) or
a Windows Phone, then the process for loading your favorite material onto it is very
similar to burning your own CD. The only difference in the procedure is that you do
your work on the Sync tab instead of the Burn tab.
Burning Your
Own CDs
If you attach a player or phone with a capacity greater than 4 gigabytes, Media Player
automatically copies your entire collection onto it, if possible. If it’s smaller, or if your
whole library won’t fit, Media Player switches into manual-sync mode, in which you
handpick what gets copied.
Automatic sync
Connect the player or phone. Media Player announces that it will perform an automatic sync. Click Finish. Smile. Wait.
From now on, just connecting the player to Media Player brings it up to date with
whatever songs you’ve added or deleted on your PC. As your library grows, shrinks,
or gets edited, you can sleep soundly, knowing that your gadget’s contents will be
updated automatically the next time you hook it up to your PC’s USB port.
Manual sync
Connect the player or phone. Read the dialog box. Click Finish.
In Media Player, click the Sync tab. Drag songs, videos, playlists, or albums into the
List pane, exactly as you would when preparing to burn a CD. Click “Start sync.”
Tip: If you’d like to surrender to the serendipity of Shuffle mode, you can let Media Player choose the songs
you get. From the Sync options (B) menu, choose the name of your player or phone; from the submenu,
choose “Shuffle list.” Each time you sync, you get a different random selection from your collection.
Sharing Music on the Network
When Microsoft called it “Windows Media Player,” it wasn’t kidding. This app can
play music and video up, down, and sideways—and even across the network.
In a couple of ways, actually. For example:
•• Listen to other people’s music. If all the PCs in your house are part of the same
network, you can sit at your PC and see what music and videos are on everyone
else’s PCs, right from within Media Player. Oh, yeah—see them and play them.
•• Send your music to another computer. Using the new Play To command, you can
use your PC as a glorified remote control that operates playback on a different PC,
sending your music to it from across the network.
Note: And not just a different PC. This feature can also send music to a new generation of gear bearing the
DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) logo—TV sets, video recorders, and so on. That’s the theory, anyway.
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•• Listen to your home music collection from across the Internet. Yes, that’s right:
From any PC in the world, you can listen to the music that’s on your PC back
home—no charge.
Here are the step-by-steps.
Note: Amazingly, the record companies seem to be OK with all this music sharing. Microsoft has designed
these features cleverly enough that it’s always you (or your family) listening to your own collection. So the
record companies, at least in principle, have nothing to worry about.
Browse One Another’s Collections—HomeGroup Method
If you’ve joined your home’s Windows computers together into a HomeGroup, then
you’ll have a particularly effortless job of sharing one another’s Media Player collections. You’ll have to do—absolutely nothing.
As shown in Figure 9, your other computers’ Media Player collections show up automatically at the bottom of the navigation pane. Each shared account on each PC
shows up here. Just click the flippy triangle to expand the name of an account or a PC.
Figure 9:
As you sit here at the Casey PC, you can see two other
computers on the network—“hp” and “Robin”—and one
other account on your own PC—“Admin.” Within, you see
a duplicate of your own Media Player categories: Music,
Videos, and so on. You can organize and play them exactly
as though they’re on your own PC.
Now, it’s possible that you’re on a HomeGroup and didn’t turn on the “Stream my
media” at the time you set it up, as suggested in Chapter 27. No problem.
If you’re sitting at PC #1, and PC #2 isn’t showing up in your copy of Media Player,
walk over to PC #2 and choose StreamÆ“Turn on home media streaming.” (If you
don’t see that command, then it’s already turned on.)
Now everything should work as described here.
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Browse One Another’s Collections—Manual Method
The HomeGroup method is great, because there aren’t really any steps at all. But not
every PC can be part of a HomeGroup, because not every PC on earth (or even in
your home) is running Windows 7 or 8. And you can’t be in a HomeGroup without
Windows 7 or later.
Sharing Music on
the Network
Fortunately, you’re not out of luck. Even if there’s no HomeGroup, even if some of
the PCs aren’t running Windows 7/8/10, you can still share one another’s music.
The only difference is that each person must explicitly turn on sharing for his own PC.
To do that on your computer, in Media Player, choose StreamƓTurn on media
sharing”; in the dialog box, click “Turn on media sharing.” (You may be asked to
authenticate.) Now everybody else can see and play your Media Player collection.
It’s up to you to persuade them to turn on that feature on their machines (if you’re
not seeing them already in your copy of Media Player).
Play To
This feature is one of the most interesting Windows tricks. In this scenario, you send
music or video from your PC to another PC in the house.
Note: As noted above, you can also send your Media Player playback to any TV, stereo, or other gadget that
bears the DLNA logo—and that you can figure out how to use.
Why? Because you probably keep most of your music on a single computer, and it
can’t be everywhere. Suppose you’re planning to have a dinner party, but your music
collection is on the PC in the attic office. Thanks to the Play To feature, you can line
up enough background music for the whole evening, up there in the attic, and send
it down to the laptop with the nice speakers in the kitchen. You won’t have to keep
Figure 10:
The Play To box is
like a playlist. Drag
songs and albums
into it, rearrange their
sequence by dragging,
eliminate items by
right-clicking and
choosing “Remove
from list,” and so on.
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Sharing Music on
the Network
running back upstairs to choose more music. You can stay downstairs and enjoy the
whole party, uninterrupted.
There’s one step of setup on the PC that will be receiving the playback (in this example,
the laptop in the kitchen). Open Media Player. Choose StreamÆ“Allow remote control of my Player.” In the resulting confirmation box, click—you guessed it—“Allow
remote control on this network.”
Note: This option doesn’t work on networks you’ve designated as Public; see page 556.
Leave Media Player running (you can minimize it if you like).
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTION
Shutting Out Others from Your Music
I’m especially annoyed with my sister right now. I don’t think
she deserves the privilege of listening to my music. Can I
block just her PC from listening to my stuff over the network?
But of course.
In Media Player, choose StreamÆ“More streaming options.”
(This option appears only after you’ve turned on streaming.) You see, in
a scrolling list, the
individual PCs on
your network—and
you can use the
pop-up menu to
its right to choose
Blocked.
Now she can’t get
to your music—until
she apologizes for
her behavior and
you change this
setting back to Allowed.
If you want to stop
everyone from listening to your stuff—we’ve all had days when we’ve felt like
that—there’s a much easier step you can take. Just choose
StreamÆ“Automatically allow devices to play my media”
so that the checkmark disappears. That’s the master on/off
switch for letting other people play with your stuff.
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Finally, it’s worth noting that you can also limit what other
people are allowed to see of your collection. For example,
you might want only the best stuff to be available (the highest star ratings) so your network doesn’t bog down because
your library is so huge. Or you might want to limit what’s
shared to music or movies with certain parental ratings, so
you don’t corrupt your kids’ minds with filth.
To do that, choose
StreamƔMore
streaming options.”
In the dialog box
that appears, you
can click either
“Choose default
settings” (meaning
that you’re going
to limit what everyone shares) or
“Customize” (next
to the first computer
in the list), to limit
what you’re sharing.
In the resulting
dialog box, turn off
“Use default settings,” if necessary. Now you see the controls
that let you limit what’s shared to, for example, “3 stars or
higher.” Or, in the “Choose parental ratings” box, turn off the
checkboxes of “Rated R” or whatever you don’t want your
impressionable young minds to see. Click OK.
Now go to the attic PC. In Media Player, on the Play tab, click the Play To icon (\).
Its pop-up menu lists all the PCs in your house that have been prepared for remote
controlling, including the kitchen laptop. Choose its name.
Sharing Music on
the Network
If all has gone well, the Play To window appears. It’s a waiting list of music that will
play in sequence. Fill it up with albums, songs, and playlists, as shown in Figure 10.
When you click the big 2 button in the Play To window, the music, amazingly enough,
begins to play on the kitchen laptop. Go downstairs and have some fun.
Play over the Internet
For its final stunt, Media Player lets you listen to your home music collection from
anywhere in the world—across the Internet.
How does it know it’s you, and not some teenage software pirate who just wants free
music? Because you have to sign in with your Microsoft account at both ends.
To set this up, open Media Player on your home computer. Choose StreamƓAllow
Internet access to home media.” Proceed as shown in Figure 11.
Figure 11:
Before you can listen
to your music collection over the Internet
tubes, some setup is
required.
First, click “Allow
Internet access
to home media”
(authenticate if
necessary). Click OK
in the congratulations box.
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the Network
Now, on any other PC that’s online and has Media Player 12 or later, repeat the steps
shown in Figure 11. And presto: In the Other Libraries category of your navigation
pane, your home music library shows up! It’s ready to examine and play, across the
Internet. If that ain’t magic, what is?
Pictures and Videos
Microsoft may like to think that music, photos, and videos are all equally important in
Media Player; photos, recorded TV shows, and videos all get equal billing with music.
But that’s just silly. Media Player is really all about music, and everyone knows it. If
you want to play your photos and videos, Windows Photo Gallery is infinitely better
suited to the task; for example, you can’t edit photos or apply tags within Media Player.
Nevertheless, here’s the rundown.
Start by clicking Pictures or Videos in the navigation tree. The screen changes to
something that closely resembles Photo Gallery (Figure 12). Here’s what you can do
in Pictures or Videos mode:
•• See a photo or video at full size by double-clicking it. The video plays, or a slideshow
begins automatically, showing that photo and the others in its group.
Figure 12:
In Pictures mode,
you see thumbnails of your
photo collection.
The navigation
tree offers oneclick grouping
mechanisms
like Keywords
(tags), Rating,
Date Taken, and
Folder. Doubleclick a photo to
open it and begin
a slideshow of it
and its neighbors.
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•• Rate a photo or video by right-clicking it and, from the shortcut menu, choosing
RateÆ4 Stars (or whatever).
Pictures and Videos
Tip: In Tiles view, it’s easier to rate pictures and videos, because a row of stars appears next to each thumbnail. You just click the third star (for example). Use the View Options pop-up menu next to the search box
to choose Tiles view.
•• Create a playlist by dragging thumbnails into the List pane at right (on the Library
tab). In the context of photos or videos, a playlist basically means a slideshow or
a sequence of self-playing videos. Click the big 2 button at the bottom of the
screen to see it.
•• Delete a photo or video by clicking its thumbnail and then pressing the Delete
key. Media Player asks if you want it removed only from the library, or from your
computer altogether.
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